Respiratory rehabilitation in elderly patients with COVID-19: A randomized controlled study

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2020 May;39:101166. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101166. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


Background: Different degrees of disorders are reported in respiratory function, physical function and psychological function in patients with corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19), especially in elderly patients. With the experience of improved and discharged COVID-19 patients, timely respiratory rehabilitation intervention may improve prognosis, maximize functional preservation and improve quality of life (QoL), but there lacks of studies worldwide exploring the outcome of this intervention.

Objective: To investigate the effects of 6-week respiratory rehabilitation training on respiratory function, QoL, mobility and psychological function in elderly patients with COVID-19.

Methods: This paper reported the findings of an observational, prospective, quasi-experimental study, which totally recruited 72 participants, of which 36 patients underwent respiratory rehabilitation and the rest without any rehabilitation intervention. The following outcomes were measured: pulmonary function tests including plethysmography and diffusing lung capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO), functional tests (6-min walk distance test), Quality of life (QoL) assessments (SF-36 scores), activities of daily living (Functional Independence Measure, FIM scores), and mental status tests (SAS anxiety and SDS depression scores).

Results: After 6 weeks of respiratory rehabilitation in the intervention group, there disclosed significant differences in FEV1(L), FVC(L), FEV1/FVC%, DLCO% and 6-min walk test. The SF-36 scores, in 8 dimensions, were statistically significant within the intervention group and between the two groups. SAS and SDS scores in the intervention group decreased after the intervention, but only anxiety had significant statistical significance within and between the two groups.

Conclusions: Six-week respiratory rehabilitation can improve respiratory function, QoL and anxiety of elderly patients with COVID-19, but it has little significant improvement on depression in the elderly.

Keywords: Covid-19; Elderly; Psychological state; Pulmonary function; Quality of life; Respiratory rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology
  • Coronavirus Infections / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / rehabilitation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Therapy* / methods
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Walking